Courtesy of the DRF
The five horses consigned under the Kirkwood banner at the elite sale will be shown under an untimed gallop during the breeze show, forgoing the blazing times strived for by horses going an eighth or a quarter of a mile.
Elser, who is based in Camden, S.C., said the notion was first brought to him last summer by a longtime friend and client he would describe only as “somewhat of a contrarian,” who tasked him to buy a handful of yearlings and take them to the Gulfstream sale with the built-in notion of going there to gallop. The horses would not be drilled to breeze leading up to the sale, and Elser signed the tickets on the yearlings as agent for “Gulfstream Gallop LLC,” stating their purpose from the moment they took ownership.
“There’s quite a few people that’ll always tell you, ‘I wish they didn’t have to go so fast. I can see all I want to see just to see them move,’” Elser said. “We need some people with confidence in their judgement to look at these open galloping through the lane, and see what they think.
“I hope we can dial it back a bit for the horses, the buyers, all of us getting horses ready to sell. I hope we can maybe broaden the market a little bit. There’s a lot of nice horses out there that get lost in the shuffle when the primary criteria is just how fast they go.”
Restricting sale-bound juveniles to galloping contradicts the commercial market tide. Just one horse was on the record as having galloped during last year’s under-tack shows at the seven combined juvenile auctions hosted by Fasig-Tipton, Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co., and Barretts. He was eventually scratched.
Adena Springs galloped each of the 50 horses it offered during the 2015 and 2016 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sales, the first two hosted at the venue. The average hammer price (both horses sold and buybacks) on those juveniles was $63,390, less than a third of the overall average hammer price for the 2015 sale, which had the lowest average of the two sales.
It is important to note, though, that a variety of factors outside of the gallops likely influenced those returns. Adena Springs was by far the largest consignor at the 2015 sale, looking to support the first auction at the Stronach Group-owned track. As such, many of the offerings had pedigrees that would not typically be seen in the boutique Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream catalog, and the prices reflected that.
One of the purchases, an $85,000 Einstein gelding named Scholar Athlete, was sent from the sale to Kirkwood Stables to finish his training, and became a Grade 3-placed runner for West Point Thoroughbreds.
This is not the first time Elser has made headlines for galloping his juveniles. In the early 2000s, he consigned a handful of breeze-only horses at several sales for Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm, who strongly opposes the rigors of the modern breeze show process. Included in that group was the $750,000 Pulpit filly Pray for Aces and stakes winner Nakayama Kun.
Though he intended all along to just gallop the horses he has consigned to the Gulfstream sale, Elser said that did not change his criteria for buying yearlings. As such, he said his expectations for what will constitute a successful sale for the Gulfstream horses is also unchanged.
“Getting all the horses sold, that’s a successful sale,” he said. “Beyond that, going on and proving that the buyers are right when they buy these and going on to win races for them.
“There’s plenty of good judges out there who could pick a horse if A) they have good confidence in their judgement; and B) if their clients let them get away from the formula they’ve been having to use recently.”